Alpha Papa

It takes a real man to raise 2 daughters

It takes a real man to raise 2 daughters

This weekend was Father’s Day. A day which has bitter sweet meaning for me. Firstly, when I was growing up we didn’t celebrate Father’s Day as my own father didn’t ‘believe’ in it so I was the only child who opted out of making a card at school. As my Father is no longer alive, I don’t feel sad on Father’s Day as I have a pretty awesome guy being a GREAT Dad in my house to our two little girls. But unfortunately (and a second year in a row) we seem to be at friend’s weddings the weekend Father’s day falls. So yesterday was spent hung over, eating pizza and watching re runs of Friends. He said it was his best Father’s Day ever so brownie points for me.

Today’s birth story comes another awesome chap I know, husband to a friend and father to a one year old little girl. I saw them at the wedding on Saturday and we agreed what better way to celebrate Father’s Day on the blog than no other than a birth story, but written by a father. So here is Shiraz’s email he sent us all when his wife Susan gave birth to their daughter Amelie in Botswana.

Shiraz and Amelie

Shiraz and Amelie

It’s late, I’m exhausted, but I’m home alone (Susan’s Mum is staying in the hospital with Susan and Amelie) so here are the key facts…
At 2 in the morning (Monday 17th June 2013) Susan wakes up saying her water’s broken.  After reading the NHS advice we decided to call the Doctor.  He says try and get some sleep and come into the clinic at 6.30am.  We do actually get a bit of sleep (in hindsight, not sure how), but Susan’s contractions started and by 5.30am in the morning they were pretty painful.
Working on auto pilot (i.e. no emotions at this point), I pack the final things for the hospital bags and get them, plus the car seat, into the Honda as Susan’s pain gets worse. Susan’s Mum (who arrived on Sunday) recognises that it’s going to happen today. She doesn’t realise how soon.
Get to clinic at 6.40. Incredibly, we have to wait 10 mins before Dr Jochen Eichler is ready. Susan goes for an internal exam (I’m left in the office) and is first told “I’m not going to be able to come to the hospital with you as I have appointments all day.” Susan cries  “WTF?!” The Eichler inspects and realises he’s got it all wrong. (Later he tells us that he was expecting Susan would be in the early stages of labour and it would still be a while for any serious action. This information was based on the calmness of Susan’s phone voice at 2am; calm or tired or classically apologetically English?)
He storms back into the office where I’m waiting and after shouting something about “8cm already”, he demands that I bring the car to the door and that we go straight to the hospital (about 20-30 mins drive away). It’s 6.55am and as Susan and I jump into our car and Dr Eichler gets into his, he shouts that if we have to deliver on the roadside we will: “I’ve got my [rubber] gloves” whilst waving the said gloves.
I’m no longer on auto pilot, passing-out feelings are rising, but our German doc makes as if he’s on the autobahn and so I’m forced to focus and keep up. Susan’s in the back and is letting out a combination of yelps and deep sighing grrrs as she tries to count through the contractions every minute or so. We get to the hospital in 20 mins, I drop Susan at the entrance shout for a wheelchair and she goes in with the Doctor. After parking and finding the delivery room (room 540 – the same room Susan, Amelie and Kay are sleeping in now), Susan is already being seen by two amazing midwives, is connected up to a drip and a couple of beepy machines and the Dr is talking her through the steps.  Basically the baby is likely to come soon.
It’s about 7.20 when I walk into room 540.  Only 1 hr 22 mins before Amelie is born.
We discover that it’s too far gone for any painkillers.  No epidural is possible.  Susan is suddenly frightened. It’s a heartbreaking thing to see, cos I can’t do anything about it.
For the first hour Susan is asked to breathe through the contractions (i.e. not push).  Susan moves into a zone: eyes closed, listening intently, but – she says later – only hearing key information, and answering very quietly. I massage her back and put a cold compress on her forehead between contractions and stay away or let her nails dig into my hand during the contractions. She seems to be doing well – even though there is obvious pain.
Things are happening so fast, I’m barely able to catch my breath.
About 8.20, the Doctor asks Monica (the reassuringly buxom midwife) to up the drip (which has a medicine in to make the contractions more powerful) and says to Susan “now we push.”
It takes about 7-8 contractions for Susan to make it happen.  Along the way a vacuum is used because the baby is the wrong way up (face up rather than down) and there is a chorus of “harder”, “stronger”, “longer” and even “we’re fighting for your baby”, which I’m not sure Susan heard, but made me suddenly understand everything (that same everything from the original email) clearly… for the first time.
There’s noise from Monica, Mary (another midwife) and Jochen.  Susan is pushing and suddenly I see a face.  Strange.  After just 1 or 2 seconds a purpley creature with a blue cable is pulled out and placed on Susan.
That is the moment. No words can explain it.  Certainly not words that I can string together. Beauty, responsibility, oddness combined into a ridiculously happy, yet perplexing moment.
Then: it’s a girl. Surprise!  Susan double, triple takes and then gets a remarkable glow.  No one expected this, least of all Susan.
The umbilical cord scissors are shunted into my hands. I recoil but am bullied by the six  foot aryan to do it: “it’s your baby”. I do, it’s fine, but it’s not the moment – that’s happened. 
After mum and baby skin-to-skin time, Amelie is taken for a rub down and to an incubator table.
I have Susan exhausted on one side and Amelie swaddled on the other.  We did it.
Susan has a few complications, but they are pretty much managed in about 30 mins and then she gets the baby.  Then I get a cuddle and we settle. Susan is exhausted and still in some pain.  She’s encouraged to go to the bathroom and goes in with the midwife but ends up fainting and about 5 nurses had to come to bring her back to the bed.  For about 20 mins she’s the palest I’ve ever seen her.  But that’s the worst of it, done.
Susan gets some sleep and I have 45 mins completely alone with Amelie. She in my arms, mostly sleeping, occasionally whimpering, a couple of mini-cries and a one 1 minute stare into my eyes.
Once Susan is up, I bring Susan’s mum to the hospital and we get a steady stream of midwives/nurses popping in to give advice, check up etc.  I feel like a spare part and long for those 45 mins alone with Amelie.
But that will happen again soon – everyday perhaps.”


Daddies Rule!


Happy Father’s Day to all you wonderful Dads and Dads-to-be out there! You are all amazing even though we don’t tell you enough and moan when the kids are dressed in the most hideous collection of clothes you’ve ever seen, often clothes you didn’t know they owned! Or when it’s their turn to cook them tea and it’s either fish fingers or chicken nuggets (ie anything from the freezer than requires minimal preparation) what is that about?!

But really, despite all of that you are fabulous and my girls are SO lucky to have such a wonderful Daddy in their lives. Our little family couldn’t work without you. Today is bitter sweet for me as my own father (we called him Papa) died 2 years ago. Oddly though we didn’t celebrate Fathers Day in our family but we will never forget how wonderful he was to myself and my brother and sister.

I thought today I would re share a previous post my husband wrote in the blog for Dads-to-be, in his own words. Here is his Top Tips fo Dads-to-be.

Before the birth – The woman you’re with is growing a baby for you inside of her – that’s pretty bloody amazing. Just take a second to think about that. She’s the one that carrying the extra weight, suffering from mood swings (although you’ll see the blunt end of those), feeling dreadful and generally having a bit of rough time so just make life a bit easier for her. She’ll moan at you and nothing you’ll do will be to the standard she wants (as if it ever is) but just make that bit more effort than you normally would around the house and maybe rein in those drinks on Saturday nights with the boys – she’s not going to be out on the smash is she, so be sympathetic.

Be interested in what she’s been reading about – invariably your other half will have been looking up stuff on the internet (hopefully from this blog) and want to share it with you. Don’t just pay this lip service as this is obviously important to her / scaring her stiff. The more you understand at this point the less likely to are to get completely freaked when all the blood and guts stuff starts happening. Things to learn include all the birth options, the birth plan if you have one and which drugs do what – (get a go on the gas and air if you can – awesome fun!)

During the birth – Realise from the outset that you’re probably going to be in the way and whatever you do will probably irritate her. I remember pouring warm water over my wife’s back while she was in the pool, I then cracked a joke about it being like pouring gravy over a big fat turkey -the phrase ‘like a lead balloon’ doesn’t do it justice.

Be brave – if your partner wants you to get involved and have a look at what’s going on, then grow a pair and have a gander – that’s your child coming into the world. At least you’ll be able to then look at your child when you’re older and say “I was involved and encouraged your mother to be active in birth” rather than “I got a cup of tea and a floppy cheese sandwich and when I came back you were there!”

After the birth – not that you wouldn’t anyway, but kiss your partner and thank them for what they’ve just done for you. You will probably never do anything on the same scale for them so make them feel like a million dollars.

Get the house ready – clean it, and that means actually get out those cleaning products (even though the likelihood is you don’t know which one is for which job) and make that house sparkle – all helps with the nesting process and making you partner and new addition feel at ease. (My wife has just told me to include flowers on here so do it)

Push present – Now this one is an area of debate for me. The debate isn’t on whether you should get your partner a present or not – you really should. The debate on how much to spend. I know some dads that have spent a grand on a new handbag and some that have just got a pair of cashmere socks. Whatever it is, put some thought into. Flowers from the garage just won’t cut it.

Get ready for the shock – your life is going to change irreversibly so don’t fight it. Nights out with the boys on Brick Lane will become limited and you’ll be tired all the time. But the upsides massively outweigh the downs – of course, I won’t bore you by going through those. I’ll leave you to discover them for yourself – that’s what being a Dad is all about.